News Release: Reports of Foodborne Illness: More News Can Be Good News

DATE: Tuesday, March 5, 2002



CHICAGO– As surveillance of foodborne illnesses and the science recognizing their causes improves, we can expect more outbreaks to be reported–even as food safety measures improve. This according to the new Expert Report Emerging Microbiological Food Safety Issues: Implications for Control in the 21st Century published by the not-for-profit scientific society Institute of Food Technologists.

Based upon current national surveillance data, public health officials estimate 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 fatalities occur annually. Only 18 percent of these foodborne illnesses are attributed to known causes, according to information referenced within the report. And although 200 or so diseases are known to be transmitted by food, current data suggest there are many more that are still unidentified.

The IFT Expert Report states that critical advancements in information gathered from farming and processing sites, retail food surveillance, antibiotic resistance monitoring, and active foodborne illness monitoring projects are necessary for a true farm-to-table food safety surveillance system.

“Encouraging sound scientific research and expanding and coordinating comprehensive surveillance efforts of food, our environment and consumers can be expected to result in increased recognition of foodborne illness outbreaks,” states Michael Doyle of the University of Georgia, a contributing author of this IFT Expert Report. “This increase should not be cause for alarm. Rather, these improvements in detection, identification and proper controls will manifest reductions in the prevalence of foodborne illness.”

Among its seven sections, the report addresses: procedures from farm to table to significantly reduce illness due to mishandling, processes to recognize and respond to outbreaks and to reduce their scope, recommendations necessary for reducing pathogenic influence at every step–from production to consumption–and guidance to enhance monitoring, data generation, and risk assessment.